How to move beehives effectively

As beekeepers, at some stage, you will have to learn how to move a beehive. This may be moving them to a new region for better foraging, or it could just be moving them from one part of your yard to another.

nsplsh_17e537b0f31a4723acf18be1ba24b3ec-mv2-7758639 There is more to moving a beehive than just lifting them up moving them!

In this post we will explain how to move a beehive or two, share with you some tips for moving your beehives and discuss some interesting points about moving hives that you may not have thought have.

How to move a beehive

  1. Ensure your beehive base, body and lid are all secured together for transport
  2. Wait until after dark when all your bees will be in their hive
  3. Block the hive entrance to make sure no bees can escape
  4. Move the bees to their new location, less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles
  5. Let the bees settle for 10-15 minutes, then open the entrance

Okay, so that is a brief overview of how to move a beehive.

Most of those steps are quite self-explanatory, but we’ll break them down a little with the following tips:

– Ensuring the hive doesn’t come apart during transport can be achieved with emlock straps, regular ratchet straps, rope or tape. Just make sure that it won’t all come apart on you while lifting or unloading the hive, or if the hive tips over en route.

– If after dusk all the bees aren’t in their hive, either use smoke to force them in, or just wait until later in the night when it cools off. Normally all bees are inside the hive just before dawn (typically the coldest part of the night).

– Hive entrances can be blocked off by tape, pieces of wood or mesh. Just ensure that the hive is adequately ventilated, particularly if moving during the day. In fact, we strongly recommend only moving hives at night time. Day time temps can lead to the hives cooking themselves and this can happen to even the best of us 🙁

– Letting the bees settle before opening the entrance aids simply aids in you not getting targetted by the bees as much. Giving them time to settle means they will leave the hive at a more steady rate when you open the entrance, as opposed to being as aggressive as they can be when first placed down after being shaken around.

– Have a plan and follow through with it. Moving beehives can be quite simple, but it pays to plan ahead. If in doubt ask a more experienced beekeeper for assistance.

62be61_72e733f82274430c8141489e2cdf0389-mv2-9698626 Emlock straps are an effective way of holding beehives together when transporting them.

How far do you need to move a beehive?

Less than 3 feet, or more than 3 miles

The above is a common piece of advice given about moving beehives.

What this means is that you should move a beehive either less than 3 feet or more than 3 miles if you want a successful move.

Why less than 3 feet?

How this works is that if you move a hive less than 3 feet the bees will generally have no problem returning home to their hive

However, should you move a hive more than 3 feet, some of the bees from the hive may not navigate their way back to the hive, and instead they will return to the original hive location.

This is because the foraging bees from the hive use very precise navigation methods to return home, and they navigate back to a particular location, as opposed to a particular hive box. While bees may be able to identify their own hive from the one immediately next to it, as clever as they are, they are not able to find their own hive if has been moved any more than a few feet away.

Why the 3 mile part of the rule?

Well, when bees navigate they rely on distinguishable landmarks around them. When bees have their hive moved more than 3 miles they will be outside of their radius of known distinguishable features and will have to re-calibrate their entire sense of navigation.

What this does is make the bees re-orientate themselves to their new location, and they won’t buzz off looking for their old hive location like they would if they had been moved to an area within their old neighbourhood.

One way of thinking about it is to imagine you’ve just moved houses but remained within your same town or suburb. You’re still familiar with your local amenities and probably still shop at the same places and see the same sights.

However, if you were to move to another country entirely, you’d be forced to re-learn where to shop, where to get your haircut, where to grab a beer etc.

So, by essentially confusing the bees by a greater amount you actually make it better for them, as they will be forced to re-orientate to their new location rather than return to a place where there is no longer a beehive!

62be61_2083f4e344624b88a3a34e002e75549d-mv2-2486569 If you lack upper-body strength like these two, it can be handy to have two people to move a hive.

What if I need to move a beehive less than 3 miles but more than 3 feet?

If you need to move a beehive just a short distance, then there are a couple of tricks that can help you with this.

As discussed above, when moving a beehive more than 3 miles you force the bees to re-orientate and thus prevent them from returning to their old hive location.

Well, there are other ways of achieving this re-orientation effect.

How to move a beehive a short distance

  1. Ensure your beehive base, body and lid are all secured together for transport
  2. Wait until after dark when all your bees will be in their hive
  3. Block the hive entrance to make sure no bees can escape
  4. Move the bees to their new location
  5. Block the entrance with a bushy branch or grass, ensuring the bees have to navigate through the foliage to leave the hive, or
  6. Leave the bees enclosed in the hive for 72 hours (ensuring adequate ventilation)
  7. Check to ensure the bees have re-orientated to their new hive location if not, repeat steps 5 or 6

What step 5 does is disorientate the bees so they think they have moved to a new location. By having to re-navigate their way through a mini jungle to leave the hive the bees will then re-orientate and reset their bearings to their new hive location.

Please not that this isn’t always successful and does depend on how effective your entrance screening is. The more foliage the better, but please do ensure adequate ventilation is still available if the hive relies entirely on the front entrance for it’s airflow.

Likewise, with step 6, ensure that the hive is well ventilated and we do not recommend this technique be attempted in Summer, or any time of the year that the hive will be exposed to even moderate levels of heat or humidity.

That said though, step 6 is quite effective as when the bees have been locked up for several days they essentially forget their navigational markers and are forced to reorientate to the new hive location. Use step 6 with caution though, and please don’t forget to come back after 72 hours, as leaving them much longer than this could result in a dead hive!


Hopefully the above gives you a good idea on how to go about moving a beehive and the steps required.

If you’d always stuck by the 3 feet or 3 miles rule, then perhaps you could give the other options we discussed above a go. It may save you the many days spent moving hives a short distance as we’ve seen people do before!

As always, thanks for reading. All the best with your beekeeping.

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